Batman Eternal #1April 9, 2014 Written By: Scott Snyder, James Tynion IV, John Layman, Ray Fawkes, and Tim Seeley Art By: Jason Fabok
Gotham is cloaked in fire. Everything that Batman has worked so hard to protect is evaporating like gun smoke on a dark night outside a movie theater. In the center of it all is Bruce Wayne himself, chained to his beloved Bat signal in a fashion that appears very uncomfortable. Oh no! It seems the Dark Knight is in genuine trouble. What can be done to save him? Now back up a second and read how he got there.
Um… why is this a thing? Especially recently. The comic will kick off a scene with abject destruction and devastation, a scene with casualty counts like a rev counter in a Maserati. Then, interest piqued, the book rolls back a week in time and let me explain how things went tits up. Yeah that’s all fine and good except now I know that the city will be on fire. The evidence is irrefutable; I saw the flames over every building in the city. Suspense will go straight out the window when Batman is racing to defuse a bomb or trying to get Firefly a tissue before he sneezes everywhere. And yet books keep on doing this. Do you know why these scenes are called a “Climax”? Because you build up to them. It’s like Scott Snyder is still stuck in Zero Year mode and has to bounce back and forth in time now.
So yeah, the story structure in “Batman Eternal” is a bit flawed from the onset—but do you know what was surprising? I actually cared about the characters and their lives. And do you know why that is? Because the main characters aren’t F#%$ing Batman. Yeah he makes an appearance and punches the baddie in the face, but the emotional core isn’t with the caped crusader, this story is about Jim Gordon and Clone Jim Gordon, Jason Bard. The great thing is we get to see what Gotham means to everyone. From the grizzled vets on the police force to the brand new rookie Jason Bard, everyone paints this picture of what the city is. It turns Gotham into this linchpin, a place unique in that it created and fosters all of this corruption and yet a place waging war for hope. And then Batman swings in and punches things in the face.
The story is incredibly engrossing; we follow Jim Gordon on the front lines as he battles the crazies in the city. A bit strange considering he’s rather high in the Gotham PD chain of command but I suppose this wouldn’t be a Batman story if there was proper police response to a crisis. In fact the book opens with Jim Gordon pinned down in a museum with three gun man training their sights on orphans and you have to wonder if Jim Gordon would have maybe called backup. But it turns out he did and his backup is Bat Shit Crazy because he breaks in through the window in a giant mecha Ironma—I mean Batsuit. But then he gets out of the thing and pursues the criminals on foot instead of flying over the street and netting the bastards from the air. No, sorry, we’re focusing on Gordon here. And he is a genuinely compelling character. Yes he has no self-preservation instinct, but he’s still human so there is always a slim chance he may bite the dust on the next page. I mean he won’t, if DC has proved anything it’s their rigid adherence to the status quo, but it’s refreshing to feel as if a character is in real peril.
In the end, Jim Gordon causes a boo boo and there’s an accident. And even though it’s clear there has been some kind of hanky panky, Gordon takes the fall and they take him off in cuffs and even his strange friendship with Batman won’t get him out of this pickle—Wait a minute, didn’t they do this one before? I could swear they forced Gordon into retirement because of—Oh, sorry, that was pre-52. I forgot that all that material is ripe for the pickings in this new world order.
Heroes do this thing quite a bit where they make a mistake and have to pay the penance. Mark Grayson aided a giant criminal dinosaur. And when things turned sour, he promptly turned himself into the authorities—well first he smashed the Dinosaur’s head into a paste and then turned himself in. I think it speaks volume of characters who deal with this sort of thing. Not just being punished for a wrong doing but for doing the wrong in the first place. Lots of heroes can be perfect beacons of justice but what about those characters that get it wrong? Mark honestly thought what he was doing was for the betterment of the world. So when the shoe dropped, it was personally devastating for him and he wanted to do anything to atone for what he had unleashed on the world. It’s characters like this that are genuinely interesting and keep us coming back to read more.
So even though “Batman Eternal” isn’t perfect, I still give it an 81% Invincible.